Monday, January 31, 2011

Whatta Man Pasta

While I was enjoying a couple of days in Chicago with my girlfriends this past weekend, my husband was manning the home front—including lugging all four of our kids to my son's Saturday morning basketball game, then taking them out for lunch, then taking them to a high school basketball game that afternoon, then taking them all to church the following morning, then driving them all to the airport to pick up yours truly. And he didn't complain once.

You know the song "Whatta Man" by Salt-n-Pepa? It's my theme song for Nate whenever he's a mighty-good man (which is a lot). I actually sing it to him, and sometimes I get all the way to the first verse—"I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due, to the man that's made a difference in the world"—before he leaves the room.

So in honor of my Whatta Man, here's his hands-down favorite pasta—a manly mix of hot sausage, peppers, onion, and garlic. It's actually my favorite homemade pasta dish, too. It's based on an "Acadian Rigatoni" recipe in a Food & Wine pasta book that's a frequent go-to in my kitchen. 

Make it for your Whatta Man—I promise he'll love it!

Whatta Man Pasta

1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup half-n-half cream
1 3/4 tsp. salt
Fresh-ground pepper
3/4 pound rigatoni

Heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook while stirring. Add onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cover pan the cook until vegetables are just soft (about 10 minutes). Mix together tomato paste and half-n-half (I use a little plastic Ziploc container with a lid and shake, shake, shake); add to pan along with salt and a few twists from your fresh ground pepper mill. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes longer. In the meantime, cook the rigatoni in salted water until just done. Drain and toss with pasta sauce. Sprinkle liberally with shredded parmesan. 

Note: This pasta is incredible with a powerful, pepper-y red wine (we usually have a Syrah). 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thank God for Girls' Weekends

In just a few minutes, I'm embarking on that ritual so essential to being a successful, happy New American Homemaker™: The Girls' Weekend. I'm flying to Chicago to spend time with four of my very-best-in-the-whole-wide-world girlfriends. I know I can count on three things...

1) I'll laugh till I cry.
2) I'll just plain cry.
3) I'll eat at least a dozen of my friend Molly's vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, I get to eat the real deal fresh from Molly's own oven tonight!)

I consider Girls' Weekends one of the most important things in my life. Truly. That's how much they replenish and uplift me. I bet a lot of you feel the same way.

Here's a sweet, beautifully illustrated video that celebrates all the important things in life. Share it with your whole family.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am such a believer in tiny traditions—those little gestures and rituals that help define a family. I've learned about lots of  fun family traditions from my New American Homemaker™ girlfriends, and I'll be sharing them in the future. I'd love to hear even more ideas, so please leave a comment about what your family does to celebrate life!

My oldest turns nine today, so I'm going to share our favorite birthday traditions. Our brand-new tradition? Birthday Boards! I made this "9" yesterday using Shape Collage, the fabulous photo site I wrote about on on Monday. The collage is made of 159 of my favorite Nick pics, from the day he was born to his basketball game last Saturday. It took me less than an hour to make this—including sorting through the digital images, using the Shape Collage software (that part actually took two minutes flat), and uploading it to Costco where I printed it on poster board for $25. (BTW for Minneapolis moms: The St. Louis Park store is known for having the best photo center of all the area Costcos, and is used by a lot of professional photographers and creative shops.) I propped it up on the kitchen table, and when he came down this morning he capital-L Loved it!

Two more of the kids' favorite traditions are the "You Are Special" plate (which they know will be laden with sprinkle-covered donuts for their birthday breakfast) and the shimmery door curtain that we hang on their bedroom door before they wake up. 

These easy, simple traditions make the kids so happy. They make me happy, too, because while we may not be able to afford piles of presents and lavish birthday parties for our four kids, I have a hunch it'll be these little things that, many years from now, they'll remember the most. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stuck on You

Stuck on You

I have a kiwi cousin—well, second cousin, actually—named Annelise, and I have wonderful memories of her visits to the U.S. when she and I were little girls. She lives in Darfield, New Zealand. So with this product recommendation, the My Kids Eat Candy network of smart, savvy moms is officially going global! Annelise just told me about, her "favourite place for labels" (note the charming spelling of "favourite"). Not only are these labels crazy cute, but they also promise to stay stuck in the dishwasher, microwave and washing machine. I am ready to order at least four different things:

  • Iron-on name labels for my boys' coats and hoodies
  • "This book belongs to..." stickers
  • Vinyl shoe dots 
  • Vinyl name dots (a set of 50 in a cute pink design will be perfect for sticking on the baby's stuff)
Thanks, cuz! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meet Sloppy Joe's Girlfriend

I have a list inside my pantry cabinet of the dinners I can make that the entire family will happily eat. It includes the usual suspects—spaghetti, tacos, lasagna—but it also includes this winner, which my boys and I have dubbed "Tidy Janes."

Tidy Janes are based on a recipe from one of those fabulous little Pillsbury Easy Meals books that you find yourself scanning when you're in line at the grocery store (even though, in all honesty, if not for the mom two carts back whom you recognize from your son's preschool, you'd be flipping through Star, because you always knew haughty Scarlett Johansson was far too NYC-elitist for that adorable Ryan Reynolds, and just like you called it when you watched The Proposal by yourself last summer when your husband was away on a guys' weekend, Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock are completely made for each other, and are going to get married and adopt lots of babies, and now your theory is starting to be proven, so take that Perez Hilton.)

My kids love Tidy Janes, and if one of my boys has something to celebrate, I'll roll out some extra dough, form it into his initial, and put it on top before I put it in the oven to bake. I prefer making my own Tidy Jane sauce out of a hodge-podge mix of onion, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, and brown sugar, but Manwich works great if you're in a hurry, has a full serving of vegetables, and turns this into a couldn't-be-easier four-ingredient dinner.

Tidy Janes

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can Manwich
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls (buy an extra can if you want to put a "dough design" on top)
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Optional: 1 tbsp. poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if you want to dress it up

Cook and drain ground beef. Stir in Manwich, heat again to bubbling. Unroll one can of dough, press the seams together, and lay the resulting sheet of dough in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Spread beef mixture on top; sprinkle with cheese. Unroll second can of dough, press seams together, and lay on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shape Up!

I've already posted about my favorite photo-related site, Picnik (click here if you missed that one), and here's another one you'll love: This snappy little site offers a free download that enables you to take your images and mash them into a circle, a heart, a letter, a number, or a shape you create yourself. Wow! 
To test out ShapeCollage, I decided to make this heart collage for my husband for Valentine's Day. Maybe it'll become a card, or a poster I can put on the bathroom mirror and cover with lipstick kisses, or a screen print for matching t-shirts that we can wear out for dinner that night. [Sorry...had to pause and dab my eyes. Laughing too hard at that mental picture.] Regardless of what this heart becomes, I learned a really important thing while making it: Of the thousands of photos I have of our family, there are a measly 40 images of just me and the most important person in my life. I'm guessing a lot of my New American Homemaker™ friends are in the same boat. So I am vowing to start making Heidi-and-Nate pictures a priority. I'll start having the sitter take a few photos before we head out the door on date nights. I'll have my kids take photos of us drinking coffee next to each other on a Saturday morning. I'll have the waiter take a photo of us when we go out for dinner. I will have more than 40 photos when it's time to make a "15" collage on our 15th anniversary a few years from now!

One important thing to note: You'll need to pay a one-time, $25 "amateur" membership fee to get rid of the watermark that you see on the above photo. I know I'll use this site enough for that to be a worthwhile investment.

My ambitions for ShapeCollage include:
  • Creating a "9" out of images of my oldest son from his babyhood through his ninth birthday, which is coming up this week. 
  • Turning photos from the boys' future football seasons into football-shaped collages—awesome coach gift!
  • Making a laminated placemat for the baby with pictures of grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins.
  • Doing random things like this, because it's just so much fun to use this site!

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Home Date Nights

At least a couple of Fridays a month, my husband and I have an In Home Date Night. We love our IHDNs! They're cheap (one buck for a Redbox rental and 20 bucks for takeout), they're easy (no coordinating babysitters or restaurant reservations), and they're so relaxing. Here is the recipe for a winning IHDN:

1. The Food
There is no cooking allowed on IHDN, unless you call making really buttery popcorn "cooking." While one of us is putting the kids to bed (even our almost-nine-year-old, who could definitely stay up later on a Friday, goes to bed at 8:30 on an IHDN), the other makes the takeout run. We switch between Big Bowl takeout (they have a $20 "Family" deal on Fridays that's fantastic), HomeMade Pizza Company in Wayzata (their Sausage and Carmelized Onion is ridiculous), and Punch Neapolitan Pizza (we each order a "par baked" pizza and share a gorgonzola salad). 

2. The Drink
Could be a six-pack of a microbrew you've never tried before, could be your favorite Malbec, could be a bottle of Jones Soda on ice. It just needs to be special. (Think something that can't be served in a sippy cup.)

3. The Most Important Rule
A true IHDN is planned ahead so you can spend the latter part of your week looking forward to the specifics. Have your plan established by Wednesday, Thursday at the very latest. Example: I reserved The Social Network as soon as I woke up this morning so Nate can pick it up on the way home. We're going to to get orange chicken and potstickers from Big Bowl, and we're going to open a bottle of pinot grigio that's chilling in the fridge as we speak. 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nailing It

New American Homemakers™ love a good product recommendation, and this one from my sister-in-law Kathy is fab. When I walked into my local Ulta store last week looking for this stuff, I'd forgotten the name. But when I told the salesperson I was looking for "this base coat and top coat with a weird name...," I couldn't even finish my sentence before she interrupted, "You mean Seche Vite!" 

If you're a nails kind of gal, Seche Vite is no doubt already on your radar. But if you're like me and get a pedicure as often as you get an annual exam, this little duo—Seche Vite Ridge Filling Base Coat and Dry Fast Top Coat—will be your nails' new best friend. The shiny base coat is great on its own. If you wear colored polish (like I'm doing regularly for the first time since 8th grade), you brush on the Dry Fast Top Coat about 10 minutes after your nail color, and within a few minutes your fingers can be folding laundry. 

P.S. When I was buying Seche Vite at Ulta, I made an appointment for a Dermalogica facial. It was 90 minutes of heaven: steaming, masking, massaging, pressure-pointing, clarifying, toning, moisturizing, and aromatherapy. This is a great time of year to treat your chapped little face to a facial.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hug Contract

When my oldest son got home from school yesterday, I said my typical, "C'mere and give me a hug, I missed you!" Only instead of coming over and happily wrapping his little freckled arms around my waist, he came over and just did this lean-in thing with his arms at his sides. I pushed him back so I could see his face and said, "If I wanted a hug like that, I'd squeeze a street lamp." He gave me a sheepish smile and hugged me again—the right way.

In that tiny moment in my kitchen, I knew I had officially joined the ranks of moms who realize—with all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the solar plexus—that their little one really isn't so little anymore.

A few minutes later I called him back into the kitchen, handed him a pen, and pointed silently to the above contract that I had scribbled on a scrap of paper from the junk drawer.

He read. He giggled. He signed.

I am such an advocate of mommy law.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Carrie's Extraordinary Monster Cookies

My friend Carrie is a mom extraordinaire in Missouri. She and her husband, Mike, have three kids, including a set of adorable pre-K twins, and—are you ready?—they don't watch any TV. Zero. Last summer, she and Mike cancelled their cable subscription and unplugged the TVs cold turkey. Carrie says it's the best thing ever. Within just a couple of weeks of going unplugged, her kids forgot all about Super Why and Word Girl. They play with each other more, use their imaginations like crazy, and fight far less than they used to. Sounds appealing, doesn't it?

Another incredible fact: Carrie never lets a friend's anniversary or birthday go by without sending a card that includes a lovely, encouraging, handwritten note. I mean, wow. I don't even give my own husband a card on his birthday!

So that's two extraordinary things about Carrie, and here's number three: She is famous for her monster cookies. She brings big tubs of them whenever we all get together. Their texture is a perfect chewy/crispy combo, and the chocolate chunks are heaven. Last weekend, five couples and our combined 13 kids met in Ames, Iowa, to go to an Iowa State University basketball game and let the kids get all pruney in the hotel pool. So much fun, and of course Carrie brought her cookies. I snuck a few home so I could take this picture. (And then distracted my kids with the TV so I could eat them without sharing.)

Carrie's Monster Cookies
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. white corn syrup
2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
4 1/2 c. quick oats
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks
14 oz. bag M&Ms

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ladies (and husbands and kids) Who Brunch

Last Sunday some very good friends of ours—Steve, Daeaun and their five-year-old son, Jack—had all of us over for brunch. As usual, it was extra special, not only because of the delicious food (including a yummy breakfast-potato casserole that she swears takes five minutes to assemble—recipe to come!), but also because Daeaun is a New American Homemaker™ with a mad eye for turning the simple into sensational. Take the cut flower arrangement she made for the centerpiece (yes, Daeaun is one of those girls who makes her table beautiful, even for a "let's just keep it casual" brunch). Look at how she cut up lemons and limes to line the glass vase. How beautiful is that? The flowers, Peruvian lilies, symbolize friendship and devotion and can have a wonderfully long vase life of nearly two weeks.

If there's ever a reason to buy "just because" flowers, it's the will-spring-ever-get-here? days of January. I will definitely be brightening up our kitchen by purchasing some Peruvian Lilies this week! 

P.S. Steve made fantastic pancakes—one batch of chocolate chip and one batch of blueberry—for the brunch. My husband is the Pancake King at our house every Saturday morning, so I loved gleaning this tip: Steve usually makes an extra big batch of pancakes every weekend and freezes the leftovers to pop in the toaster for easy breakfasts during the school week. How smart is that?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lands' End and lucy

On Lands' End:

I'm not a big shopper. A few hours at a mall a few times a year, sure. But I've always thought "shopping" might as well be called "spending"—and spending is not something of which I'm fond. Unless...

...there's a serious deal to be had. I couldn't get to the gym this morning, but since my body's clock is set to go off at 4:30 a.m. every day, I was up anyway. Yes, I could have done a yoga video. Yes, I could have put away the laundry that's been piled on my dresser for five days. Yes, I could have filled out my son's immunization forms that are about three weeks overdue. But I clicked on a promotional email from Lands' End instead—25% off sale and clearance items today plus free shipping—and I'm so glad I did. Like many of my girlfriends, my uniform nearly every day involves either jeans or yoga pants on the bottom and layered t-shirts on the top, so purchasing seven staple items from Lands' End's "fitted" line for about 50 bucks + free shipping is like hitting pay dirt. I even found a winter hat with a ponytail hole for $7.50. Love that! Okay, maybe I'm more of a shopper than I care to admit.

On lucy: 

I am a HUGE fan of this store (see above description of my daily uniform), and happened to get this email from my fab sister-in-law this morning—further proof that New American Homemakers™ love a good bargain: You would be proud of me! Just received two more 1/2 zip tops from lucy. I ordered them on the weekend when they had an additional 30% off their sale prices. The original price of these two tops was over $60 a piece as I recall. I got them both for $14 each! How's that for bargain shopping?! Thanks go to you for turning me on to this fabulous store; my new favorite. I love lucy!

High-quality yoga pants, tank tops, hoodies, jackets, caps, can find it all at lucy. The price points are a little high, but the quality is fantastic—which, if it's part of your daily uniform, matters!


While I was toodling around the Lands' End site this morning, I was listening to an interview with a man who was buried in rubble in Haiti a year ago. So there I am with tears in my eyes, feeling so moved listening to this man talk about how he scribbled love notes to his wife and two sons because he thought he had just hours to live, and at the same time I'm feeling giddy over finding a hat with a ponytail hole. If you could use a 25-minute injection of big-picture perspective today, listen to this remarkably moving story about a man's faith and his love for his family

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Citrus + Snow Angels

January = pasty skin, filthy cars, static-y hair, chapped lips, and no warm weather in sight. It's the month you ask yourself nearly every day, "Why do we live here again?" But then you go to the grocery store, and you see the produce tables laden with citrus, and you fill your little plastic bags with clementines and navel oranges and Texas grapefruits, and you remember that even the toughest time of the year has its bright side. 

My oldest son was born in January, and my sister-in-law Katie came over a week or two after he was born--at the height of my cooped-up, post-partem, cabin-fever baby blues. I'll never forget what she brought: ripe, juicy, incredibly sweet oranges chopped up and sprinkled with cinnamon. So simple. So fantastic. So nice of her. 

I've been sprinkling cinnamon on cut up fruit ever since. It's such an easy way to dress up fruit—without adding sugary sauces or goopy creams (mind you, I have nothing against sugary sauces or goopy creams). Chop up a little bit of mint for color, and you've got yourself one easy citrus salad.  

P.S. I bet I wasn't the only mom in the North Star State who bundled up her wee eskimos yesterday to soak up the sun. It was an absolutely beautiful day—so bright and so still (there is nothing like winter stillness), and it felt delicious to be outside soaking up some Vitamin D. I wish I still loved snow like my kids do. Here's a quick vid from our walk yesterday afternoon. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jackie's oooh-mama Margarita

Some of our very best family friends invited my entire six-member Pearson Crazy Train over for dinner last Saturday. A few days before the soiree, I asked the hostess, Jackie, if there was any chance she might be making her phenomenal margaritas. She took the bait (thanks, Jack!) and had a pitcher filled with said concoction ready for me to guzzle, I mean daintily sip, throughout the evening.

New American Homemakers, allow me to introduce what I promise will become your go-to "Whew, that was one helluva week—let's make margaritas!" margarita. Hmmm...a tad cumbersome. Let's just call it the "Jackie's oooh-mama" margarita. I'm posting it today so you have plenty of time to gather your supplies and be in full margarita mode come Friday. Enjoy! 

Jackie's oooh-mama Margarita

1 can frozen limeade
2 empty limeade cans water
1/2 empty limeade can tequila
1/4 empty limeade can triple sec
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Freshly squeezed juice from one lime

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bin There, Done That

I have a bin fetish. The Container Store makes my heart race. I never miss the "storage" aisles at Target—even if I'm only there to pick up a prescription. I have containers to organize my spare containers. So this time of year, I'm like a gambling addict in Vegas. Bins, baskets and boxes are front-and-center everywhereHome Depot, Home Goods, you name it. But I've been strong. I've only added one bin, a black-and-white fabric number that's a perfect laundry hamper in my baby's black-and-white nursery, to my bin bank. 

My friend Molly (the same Molly who gave me that delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe) was at my house last year and made a big fuss over my bins. She even sent me updates on her own bin bonanza after she got back to Chicago. Since it's the season for organization, I thought I'd share a few photos from the way I've used bins around the house. I credit my bin acumen to my friend Heather, quite possibly the most organized woman I know (and I know a lot of organized women). Long ago, when I saw the way she stacked big gray Rubbermaid bins—each meticulously edited and neatly labeled—in her basement, I was hooked. 

Bins keep me sane. They help me teach organization to my kids. They reduce our clutter. The amp up our family efficiency. I'm a bin believer. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mila's Daydreams

I can't decide what I love more about these photos—their sheer sweetness, or the fact that there's a mom behind the lens with such a beautiful imagination.  Using things she has around the house—blankets, her own shoes, DVD cases, scarves, rugs, books, pillows—Adele Enerson, a Finnish mom, creates fairytale worlds for her daughter Mila and snaps photos as she naps. Adele could be using her precious daughter's nap time to do the things I so often find myself doing: frantically cleaning out the fridge while talking to the Comcast lady while eating about-to-expire yogurt while checking email on my phone. Instead, she's making magical moments with her daughter, even as she sleeps. Adele's "favorite quote" on her Facebook page is from George Bernard Shaw: "We don't stop playing because we grow old—we grow old because we stop playing." Here's to staying playful, New American Homemakers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Crazy for Cocoa Cones

I made this today at my biweekly Mothers of Preschoolers meeting at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN. (BTW, talk about hitting the jackpot for blog-worthy ideas. If you could bottle the creative, spiritual and supportive energy in that room...) 

How cute is this? Just imagine the cocoa cone possibilities!

• Make a dozen, put them in a galvanized bucket and anonymously drop them off in the teachers lounge at your kid's school.

• Have your kids make a few and deliver them door-to-door as a winter pick-me-up for your neighbors.

• Create a wintry hostess gift by combining a cocoa cone and a bottle of Bailey's in a basket.

• Have a winter birthday in your family? Here's the perfect party take-home craft.

• Make one, take a picture of it, blog about it, and then display it on your kitchen counter—even when your kids beg you to make them cocoa—because it's too cute to actually drink.

The how-to:

3/4 cup cocoa mix (We used Swiss Miss "No Sugar Added")
2 cone-shaped cellophane bags (we used Wilton disposable cake decorating bags)
2 clear rubber bands (we used clear hair elastics--so smart!)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (very important to use mini because they're so cute)
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
1 large red gumdrop or cherry sour candy

1. Pour cocoa mix into one of the bags. Close with rubber band; trim the end of bag 1 inch above band.
2. Place cocoa-filled bag into second bag and flatten its top.
3. Layer chocolate chips and marshmallows; top with the red candy. Secure the bag with other rubber band.
4. Attach tag that says, "Mix with 3 cups hot milk or water and enjoy. Makes four servings."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Real-deal Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese = one of life's simple pleasures, don't you think? I made grilled cheese for my crew yesterday (proving what I said in an earlier blog about how my family's favorite foods are bread and cheese). Now why would I blog about something as mundane as grilled cheese? Because after a quarter-century of GC-making, I have finally discovered the secret ingredient for unbeatable, real-deal grilled cheese sandwiches:

Innkeeper's Bed & Breakfast® 8 Grain Bread 

InnKeeper's bread is sold exclusively at Costco. It boasts 14 grams of whole grains per serving, has no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, and is low fat—and my kids LOVE it! I usually make GCs with Tillamook medium cheddar cheese, but a good, soft, buttery havarti is also delicious. 

P.S. I toast a slice of Innkeeper's bread almost every morning and spread it with Skippy Natural peanut butter for a little protein boost to start my day. Total calories: about 250. Easy, filling, nutritious, and so good with coffee!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lashing Out: My Latisse Experiment

My New American Homemaker™ friend Jen has a theory (she's a chemical engineer, so I put a lot of stock in her theories): Most of us start out with thick, beautiful lashes, but we slowly ruin them with mascara. Kind of makes sense, doesn't it? Think about what we do to our lashes every day: squeeze them with a curling device; cake them with a potent mix of pigment, guanine, oil, and wax; and rub them to remove all that gunk every night. Of course the more anemic our lashes become, the more we attack them in a vain attempt to restore their former glory. It's gotta take a toll. 

I look at my baby girl's beautiful lashes—truly twice as long and thick as mine—and I want to forbid her from ever hitting the cosmetics aisle. But, like generations of women the world over (mascara has been around in some form for more than 1,000 years!), I know she'll someday fall under the spell of mascara. 

I'm a little lash obsessed, probably because mine are about as wimpy as they come. So when I met a friend for dinner last summer and she showed up with double-take lashes and credited Latisse, I couldn't shake the idea of trying it myself. After months of conducting my own due diligence (read: surfing the 'net), I finally made the plunge and purchased a bottle yesterday for $90. Because it's a prescription, I had to fill out a medical form. Took all of five minutes. 

So here begins my experiment, and I'm going to chart my progress with sorry-if-they're-kinda-creepy photos for the next 16 weeks. If things go well, I'll have two things in common with Latisse spokeswoman Brooke Shields: a daughter named Rowan, and long, luscious lashes. If things don't go well, I'll have learned a valuable lesson about the downside (as if there's an upside?) of vanity. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Molly's Vanilla Pudding Choco-chip Cookies

Four-year-old Grant is feeling a little blue today because his big brothers went back to school. He's my baking buddy, and I knew making cookies would cheer him up. (Okay, my sweets craving might have been an itsy-bitsy motivator, too.) 

The only chocolate chip cookie recipe I ever make anymore is from my friend Molly in Chicago. Molly brought these cookies to a girls' weekend in Galena, Illinois, a couple of years ago, and we all went wild over them. It's a recipe she learned from her home-ec teacher in a little Iowa town (enough said, right?), and the secret is that it calls for a box of vanilla pudding. Just like Molly, these cookies are sweet, comforting, and guaranteed to cheer you up. 

Molly's Choco-Chip Cookies

2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. butter, room temp.
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package vanilla pudding mix (not instant! use "pudding and pie filling" mix)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (my note: or a tad more, if you love vanilla like I do)
2 c. chocolate chips

1. Set oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Sift flour and baking soda into small bowl.
3. Cream: butter, brown sugar, white sugar. 
4. Beat in pudding mix.
5. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
6. Blend in flour mixture; stir in chips.
7. Place rounded teaspoons of dough on cookie sheet; bake 10-12 minutes. (My note: Careful not to over bake. These cookies are best taken out of the oven when they're just barely starting to brown around the edges.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Here's to a Steamy 2011

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, perhaps because I heard in church today what I always suspected—that 75 percent of us abandon our resolutions by February. That said, I'm thinking about making a formal declaration at the dinner table tomorrow night that 2011 is going to be "The Year of the Vegetable" at our house. Don't tell the Organic Mommy Police, but my entire family can go several days without ingesting as much as a baby carrot. Actually, that's not true. The baby loves eating strained green beans (yech) and mashed peas (blech). But the rest of us feel sorry for her having to eat that stuff. 

The thing is, I love good vegetables. Even Brussels sprouts. I had them at a fancy restaurant not too long ago, and they blew my mind. Delicious! I'm just not gifted with incorporating tasty vegetables into my own cooking. Ergo, I'm a mission to find easy, tasty recipes that incorporate sweet potatoes, spinach, green beans, and all of their friends. And not the stealth way that Jerry Seinfeld's wife does it—"HeeHee! Tommy has no idea that I drizzled his popcorn with cauliflower juice!" No, I want loud-and-proud vegetables to start stealing the spotlight from the traditional stars at my table: pasta and cheese. 

My brother-in-law, Andy, a seriously healthful cook and eater, has already turned me on to the wonders of cooking vegetables in a pressure cooker. But at Christmas, he trumped all of his previous tips by giving me a game-changing gadget, the Sleekstor™ Veggisteam™ by Chef'n. It's a silicone vegetable steamer, and Andy showed me that while the directions tell users to place it in a pot on a stovetop, it works even better and faster in the microwave. The Sleekstor has removed my last excuse ("gosh, preparing great-tasting vegetables is just so darn time consuming") for not getting vegetables on the table each and every night. Thanks a lot, Andy. No I mean it. Really. Thank you.

I'll share my veggie discoveries here, and please let me know if you have any ideas for me. Onward!

chef'n sleekstor™ veggiesteam™